Praise God in the Storm: Part 3

So far I’ve talked about praising God in the storm by taking it a bit at a time and by looking for the blessings in bad things that didn’t happen because God protected us.  This week, I’d like to talk more about the difference between what is defined as joy and happiness.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but they really are two different things.

3. Remember that joy and happiness are two different things

Keep things in proper perspective.  Happiness, as defined by Merriam Webster as good fortune or  prosperity, a state of well-being and contentment, joy or a pleasurable or satisfying experience.

Joy is listed as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desiresdelight, the expression or exhibition of such emotion, gaiety, a state of happiness or felicity, bliss, a source or cause of delight.

So happiness is dependent upon external circumstances, whereas joy exists in spite of whatever is going on around us and is a result of what’s happening on the inside. You can still have joy even though you are not happy because you can have a hope because you are in God’s will and will be rewarded in heaven even if you aren’t here on earth.  You can be joyous in your strength or your endurance or your obedience even if you are unhappy about your health or your finances or your relationships.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve been unhappy about the situations I’ve found myself in. As I write this, I’m unhappy about the fact that my dh will be losing his job…again, the fact that it’s taken much more time, energy and money to get our Amazon mug business off the ground which we feel will help us during the job transition, and the fact that I still have several health issues that keep me in pain and devoid of energy.  And those are just the highlights!  But…though I may take time to be frustrated and sad, I know in my heart that there is a loving God who is with me and who has made a way for me beyond the temporary that is this fallen world.  That is my joy despite the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with my circumstances at times.

Happy is fleeting and relies on outside forces.  Joy is eternal and comes from within.  Joy won’t always make you happy, but it certainly helps in times of trial.

Take some time to think about what makes you joyful as opposed to just happy.

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Praising God in the Storm: Part 2

Now that we understand that finding our joy means praising God in the storm and that requires baby steps at first (and periodically by the way when things get difficult as they tend to do), we need to also begin to think about blessings we may not have ever even noticed.  We can get so caught up in what has happened, should have happened, shouldn’t have happened, and might happen in the future, that we often forget to notice all the times in our lives we should be grateful for all the things great and small that God has done behind the scenes that we never even realized or thought much about.  Doing so can help us to see even more blessings and feel God near when struggles take over our thoughts and feelings bringing a cloud of despair over us.

2. Blessings for worst not happening

In the midst of terrible pain it’s often hard to see what could be worse and, to be honest, we don’t often care.  We just know where we are now is bad.  However, looking at the bright side can truly make a person thankful because, believe it or not, there are so many situations where we could be worse off.

Food prices up? Praise God that you have the money to buy them.  Health bad? Praise God that you have the time to rest.  Sick? As you pray for healing be thankful it isn’t fatal.  Serious illness?  Be thankful that there is still hope.  And if a loved one has passed away, praise God he is no longer suffering and is with Jesus in heaven.

Now these things may sound easy to some, but they are not at all easy to do when you are in the middle of a struggle especially when that struggle has already taken a toll on you for many years.  However, if you start small, are consistent and build, your faith will increase, your sorrow will lift and your joy will return even if you aren’t happy about your circumstances.

In the midst of despair, sadness and being overwhelmed with struggle, we may find it difficult to just pick ourselves up by our Christian bootstraps and just “be happy.”  However, these little things have helped me get just one step closer to being thankful and have reminded me that God is there with me and He’s working on my behalf even if I can’t feel Him through all that life throws at me.  I pray they are blessings to you and you can begin to see how you can be thankful and praise God during your struggles as well.

So, do you remember a time when you had a near miss car accident?  A “lucky event” when things could have been so much worse?  Was there a time in your life when things went very well and you didn’t think about how incredible they were and remember to thank God for these “coincidences” that brought them to you?  I sure do!

When we lived in Southern California, we used to drive six hours to visit my folks in ARIDzona.  On one such trip out, we noticed that our brakes started squeaking.  By the time we arrived, they were squeaking kind of loudly, but all the men in the family (with a collective 100 yrs of automotive experience) thought we were safe to drive home and have it taken care of after that weekend.  Well, they were all wrong!

We were driving back on a holiday weekend when traffic was horrendous! It was stop and go (mostly stop) all the way and took us several hours longer than it usually did.  Half way or so in, the brakes were soooo loud, but they felt fine and so we just kept going.  At night, what much else was there to do? With each time my husband hit the brakes, the sound got louder, the brakes got touchier, and we got more frightened with our young kids in the back of the car.  As we pulled into the driveway of our home, the brakes finally gave out as we coasted into our garage in total safety.

There are many such stories I could recount to you of horrifying things that never happened because God had His hand upon us.  But there are countless other times I may never even noticed when God sent us on a small journey so as to avoid a major traffic wreck or some other such horrific event we never even heard about much less reflected upon.

My point is, not only should we be grateful to the Lord for glaringly obvious mishaps we were spared, but also for all the little coincidences orchestrated by Him in order to so completely avoid tragedy that we never even knew it.

What can you think of that could have been worse, but for the grace of God was not?

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Praising God in the Storm Series: Part 1

This is from an article I wrote a long while back for Examiner.com and was expanded upon a few years ago. I am going to expand this topic even further in this new series in order to build upon the series I just completed about how Paul was able to find the joy amidst his trials.  Now that we know how to find the joy, it’s important to fully understand how to praise God in the midst of our trials because, I think, that can be the hardest part of finding the joy.  This will be a six part weekly series and I begin with the introduction from the previous article to set the tone and give us the first step. 

Most Christians have heard many times how we are to praise God in the storm, but what has always frustrated me is that nobody has ever told us how to do that.  It’s hard to just begin feeling thankful when you’re in the midst of a financial mess or a loved one’s death.  Merely understanding that you should do something doesn’t help you do it.

All devotionals on this topic will tell you to read the Bible and pray.  This is obvious since we are trying to get closer to God and further away from our pain or struggle.  This is also something we should do when we are not struggling.  But just reading the Bible when you are struggling may not help your attitude turn to gratitude and you may not even know how to pray for a situation, especially if it has been a long and confusing one.

There are many devotionals on thankfulness that talk about this so I’m not going to spend much time on it since you’ve probably read enough of them to quote them verbatim.  I’ll just say that it’s important to continue to pray and read the scriptures even when we are at our wit’s end and even when we are no longer able to envision that God would help us because, the moment we no longer seek God, we begin to drift away from Him.  “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.” -Psalm 119:143

After many years upon this earth I have found some things that have helped me to become more thankful and bring me to the point where I can praise God during the storms of my life.  By the way…I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.

1. Start small and build

Thank Him for whatever blessings you can think of, even if you have a hard time coming up with things you are thankful for and even if you don’t feel very thankful when you write it or say it.  There is an old saying, “act as if.”  If you begin to thank God for the blessings, no matter how small, in your life, you will begin to see more and feel it more as you go.

Somehow my attitude changes when I concentrate on the little blessings.  I remember an old saying my relatives had when I was a child, “thank God for small favors.”  It has become a popular secular saying that has come to mean something quite different so I don’t suggest you actually say this to yourself.  I think it must have started out meaning that we should thank God for the small blessings in our lives to help us see the blessings He has given us.  Unfortunately, what it has come to mean is a snarky commentary that God only grants us small favors.

See how your attitude changes when you say, “thank God for small favors” instead of “thank you, Lord, for these little blessings?”  One suggests that’s all we expect the Lord to give us and the other reminds us that these are just the beginnings of blessings God wants to shower upon us.  That one little communication change changes everything.

Think back to all the times when you had just missed a disaster.  How do you think that miracle happened?  Envision what God must have been doing to protect you and then feel the love that lead God to that act.  I remember a time when we drove from California to ARIDzona to visit my folks.  On the way there, we heard the brakes begin to screech.  All the men at the event thought it wasn’t a major issue so we didn’t drive the car during our visit and headed home where we planned to have them repaired.  There was a great deal of traffic that holiday on the way back and got progressively worse on that six hour drive home.  We were able to make it all the way home and, as we coasted into the garage, the brakes completely failed leaving usunharmed and safely in our garage.  Thank you, Jesus, for all the disasters we avoided that night alone!

Think back to all the times when NOTHING bad happened.  What disaster might have occurred?  Thank Him for those as well.  How many times were you thinking of going to XYZ when something changed your mind and you narrowly avoided a known disaster?  My husband once decided not to go to work one day because the only route there (70 miles one way) was covered in snow and notorious for closure.  Later we found that many of the people who traveled that road were stuck down the hill unable to get home for a day or two.  And what about all the other situations we have no idea we could have found ourselves in?

Praising God during a storm in your life, especially one that you’ve endured a long, long time, is not easy. It takes some work. It takes searching hard for any little shred of joy you can find and hang on to. But it’s worth the time and effort to build a habit because there will always come times in your life when things are even more difficult to handle than you ever thought they would be and that’s exactly the time you need to praise God in the storm!

I’ll be back next week with another installment…until then, I pray for your blessings in the whatever storm you find yourself.

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Some more “joy” resources from the article vault

So ends the Paul vs Job series here on Life Beyond Surviving, but I didn’t want to let you go without giving you some more “joy” resources.  You see, I’ve been writing about this topic for quite some time. I started over on my JoJoisms blogsite.  I’ve been transferring my most popular articles over to this site, but I’ve written so much that it’s not easy.  It takes quite a bit of time so I’ve been doing them in bunches as these topics arise.

After this series, I thought about how a few of my other articles might be of some value to you.  That being said, here are two articles I’ve written, a bit of what they say with links to the full articles here on Life Beyond Surviving.

1) How to Praise God in the Storm:

There are many devotionals on thankfulness that talk about this so I’m not going to spend much time on it since you’ve probably read enough of them to quote them verbatim. I’ll just say that it’s important to continue to pray and read the scriptures even when we are at our wit’s end and even when we are no longer able to envision that God would help us because, the moment we no longer seek God, we begin to drift away from Him. “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.” -Psalm 119:143

So how do we begin to feel thankful? Well, last week I prepared our hearts a bit by sharing with you what we should remember about struggles. But that often isn’t enough to bring us through from frustration and despair. After many years upon this earth I have found some things that have helped me to become more thankful and bring me to the point where I can praise God during the storms of my life. By the way…I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.

1. Start small and build

Thank Him for whatever blessings you can think of, even…

Click the above link to read the rest of the article.

2) What to Remember About Struggles:

Sometimes things that friends and family communicate to us can make our struggles more difficult, but there are things we can communicate to ourselves that can help us during struggles.  Today I’d like us to consider some things that will help us remember that God is not out to get us when struggles come. God isn’t punishing us and that there is a reason and maybe even a blessing around the corner.

Here’s what we need to remember during hard times:

1. Even if we cannot feel Him, God is still with us

We can count on Him to help and support us through the difficult times.  Often we feel abandoned by God when tough times come.  It’s only  natural that we may not feel close to God when we are struggling, but if we can remind ourselves that God has not moved away from us, we might feel Him near.  It’s always harder to find something when we aren’t looking.

It’s almost like when you have a close relative who lives far away.  You can’t reach out and touch them or hug them, but you can still talk to them on the phone, but only if we dial the phone.

2. This struggle may prepare us for an incredible opportunity

We may need to learn something from this horrible experience…

Click the above link to read the rest of the article.

I pray the Paul vs Job series has blessed you and your family and that these additional resources give you more to help you begin to work toward having more joy in your life despite the trails.

 

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Paul vs Job Part 9: How Did Paul Find Joy?

This is the last part in my series Paul vs Job.  Just to recap, in this series, I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven.  I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul.  I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul.  I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short term trials and ones that are long term. Next I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering.  Then, I talked about the needs of the suffering and things I feel it’s important to keep in mind.

I’ve known for years that the Bible, and Paul specifically, tells us to have joy even in the midst of trials, but whenever I’d look for how to do that, all devotionals and articles came up short.  They always told me what to do, but never HOW I could do that.  There were times when I was in so much physical pain or emotional turmoil that I couldn’t even envision how that could be accomplished.  And there were times when I have been easily able to move to joy from fear and pain because of all I’d seen in my life and all God had done for me.  Yet, I still didn’t understand how Paul was able to have the joy he apparently had even in the midst of pain, enormous struggle, and persecution.

Frankly, I’d searched so long and so hard, I never thought I’d understand.  I spoke to pastors and faith-filled friends who all told me to write about this, but I never felt qualified to do so…until recently.  A friend told me to share what I HAD discovered even if it didn’t lead to how Paul was able to have such joy.  So I embarked on this series.  While, I prayed it would be a blessing to those in pain, struggling with trials of various kinds, I fully expected to come to this point in the series and tell you I had no idea how Paul was able to do this.

Then a miracle happened.  I was reading over some articles and devotionals preparing for this blog post when it hit me that there wasn’t a single thing Paul did that helped him to feel joy.  It wasn’t what he did; it was who he was.  I believe there are nine things Paul was, or tried hard to be, that allowed him to live with joy:

1) An expectation and an acceptance that life wasn’t going to be easy.
Back in the olden days, I think there was an expectation and an acceptance that life was not a peaceful progression of years. With the advancement of medical science and technology, we have now come to expect that these things will make our lives easier.  But more than this, we’ve come to the point where we do not accept life’s little struggles–let alone the big ones.  As a result, it’s harder for people to deal with those struggles when they arise.  The Bible tells us we will face trials of various kinds.  Paul knew this.  We should too.

2) A determination, a commitment, and a resilience.
Paul felt a strong calling on his life from the Lord to do certain things.  That gives a person a determination and a commitment to that end.  Determination and commitment leads to a resilience.  We need to adopt those characteristics in our own lives to get us through the rough patches.  Even if you look at this in a secular situation, have you ever heard of someone who accomplished great things in their lives, had great success, without having to struggle?  No, you didn’t.

3) A constant reminder of how much Christ endured for us.
Paul was able to endure, I feel, because he was always aware of how much more Christ had endured for us.  Whatever we have gone through, though devastating, was nothing compared to all Christ had lived through for our sake.  I know that He was more than man and we are merely mortal, but having this in mind can help us to move past many things.

4) An understanding that while he may be in chains, his ministry was not.
Paul understood that while he had physical limitations of health or imprisonment, his ministry wasn’t bound.  He was able to lead others to Christ through others, through his letters to the churches, etc.  My ministry is not reliant upon my physical prowess (thankfully!) or my physical location (thanks to the internet).  While my body may be limited, my ministry is not if I only think a bit outside the box.  What about yours?

5) A heart to find the blessings due to his pain.
Paul’s heart was for others and he saw the blessings in those he discipled.  He saw the blessings that God helped him to accomplish.  He saw the beauty in God’s creations.  We can do the same.  If we look for the blessings in spite of (and sometimes BECAUSE of) our pain, we will have an easier time moving forward past the hardships.

6) A satisfaction with who he was if not how he was.
I think Paul was never satisfied with where he was or what he’d been able to do, but he was satisfied with who he was in Christ.  We may not be satisfied with where we are (in struggle/chronic illness), but we may be satisfied with who we are in Christ because we are His and we are doing our best to fulfill our missions here on earth.  That right there goes a long way to keeping us on track and fulfilled which makes trials less likely to derail our spirit.

7) A thankful heart for what he had been able to accomplish.
Paul had a thankful heart for all God did for him, a sinner, and for what he was able to accomplish in Christ. He was humble enough to know it was God’s victories and that, I think, made him thankful to be part of something bigger and more important than himself. Thankfulness makes us more positive about our future. Thankfulness can help us see outside ourselves and current difficulties toward something larger and more important for us to accomplish. Even if you are bedridden, there are ways the Lord can use you!  What do you think they are? How can you be thankful to God for things in your life?

8) A flexibility to bypass roadblocks.
Part of number four up there requires flexibility.  When life put up roadblocks for Paul, he found ways around them in order to further his ministry.  Life has thrown roadblocks in your way too.  How can you get around them?  I know someone who is in a lot of pain and takes to her bed often for days, but she has a ministry online that gives her purpose.  Instead of thinking she can’t be of any use, she found a way around her roadblocks to fulfill her ministry.  How can you?

9) A heart to seek God for strength and direction.
Paul had a heart to seek after God. He found strength in Him and he asked for direction.  We can too.  We can ask God to reveal our purpose, to give us strength, to direct our steps, to fulfill our calling, to get through our struggles, and to find our joy! Will you?

I wish I could say I could wave a magic wand or you could take a pill and just suddenly experience joy amidst the difficult and sometimes horrific trials.  There is no easy way to find joy.  Maybe that’s the point.  Maybe we need to struggle in order to create something beautiful in this life. Maybe it’s the struggle that defines us and pushes us mere humans to do something incredible with God’s help.  Maybe the only real peace we will find is on the other side, in heaven…

I may not have all the answers to how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of such trial. I may know nothing about what it will mean for you, but I do pray this post has been a starting point, food for thought, that will lead you to become the person you need to be in order to find your joy.

 

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Paul vs Job Part 8: Keep This in Mind

I only have two more parts to this series and today’s is about things we, who are going through long term, chronic, and lifetime trials need to keep in mind in order to be able to find the joy inside the struggles.  This week’s post is vital if you’ve never sat down to think of them before and even if you have. Stay with me.

 

  1. You’ll have good days and bad days.  Dealing with issues like these unfortunately isn’t a straight upward trajectory.  You’ll have good days and bad days. If you don’t expect that, you’ll be disappointed when the bad days come. If you do expect that, you can minimize the effects of the bad days and get more joy out of the good days.
  2. Watch for dangerous signs. Depression and suicide is an increased risk for those in one or more long-term chronic issues. Get help if you feel overwhelmed and depressed.  We are only human and things can get to us after a long while of dealing with life’s trials. Don’t suffer needlessly.  It happened to me a while back, but thankfully I was able to pull myself out after a short time.
  3. Make time for and pick your battles with your spouse. The divorce rate among those in trial is also much higher. Whether your struggle is financial or health related, these things can make for grumpy spouses and that can affect a marriage.  Take time to work through things together before it becomes a pattern or too big a problem for you two to face together without help. If it’s already gotten to that point, consider getting some marriage counseling.
  4. Keep in mind that things are not as simplistic as others would have you believe. Most issues are much more complex than the platitudes and pat answers would suggest and they won’t help. Life isn’t all packaged up neatly in a perfect box.  Life’s messy and life in trial is even messier still.  And that’s ok. Knowing this allows you to dig further to find your answers instead of feeling as if there is something wrong with you because someone thinks you should just “get over it.”

I would also like to take this opportunity to share some tips for finding more joy in the midst of struggle and suffering.

  1. CDs of church sermons you’ve not been able to attend for health reasons
  2. Online church sermons if you can’t make it to church one week or more
  3. Upliftng praise and worship music or music that makes you happy from when you were a child or when you were doing well.
  4. Watching humorous tv shows or funny videos
  5. Our parent company Grape Stuff has a set of four CDs that have serene instrumental music on them that is designed to reduce anxiety and to calm.  It’s called the Serenity Package.  

Next week, I’ll deal with what I find in Paul’s writing that leads me to believe how he was able to find joy in all that was his trials. See you then.

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Paul vs Job: Part 7 The Needs of the Suffering

So far in this series I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven.  I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul.  I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul.  I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short term trials and ones that are long term. Next I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to share more about what got me started looking into Paul and Job.

People who don’t have chronic illnesses or long term financial (or other) issues just don’t understand what that means and so they’d say things to me like:

“I understand how you feel because I’ve had a cold recently.”
“But you don’t look sick!” or “It could be worse.”
“If you only had more faith…”
“Don’t you WANT to feel better?”
“Just be more positive.”
“Job was given everything he lost and more!”

Some were well-meaning. Others were just mean. LOL  Both just had no idea that they were making it worse for me.  Job’s trails were not permanent. Paul’s were.

Why was there no study on how Paul was able to have the joy despite NOT being healed and living his life being persecuted and ultimately jailed?

Here’s what I longed for someone to say:

“I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
“I’m here for you.”
“Tell me about your disease/problem.”
“How can I help?”
“If you’d rather not talk about it…”
“I admire your courage and strength.”
“You’re an inspiration/encouragement.”

I have still not found a devotional about how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of his long term trials, but what I have found is what helps ME see the joy in the midst of several chronic illnesses, financial instability, and surgeries.

Next week, I’ll be sharing some insights of my own about living with chronic issues.  Then the following week, I’ll share what I have found by going back to read Paul’s letters.

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Paul vs Job Part 6: What the Bible Says About Joy in Suffering

When I first began looking for how to have joy in the midst of struggles, I found lots of references to joy in suffering though I didn’t find exactly how we were to do that.  I felt at this point in the series, I’d share some of what I found.  I think it helps us to know that others found joy in the midst of suffering, struggles, and trials.  And it helps to read the words that share that joy in the scriptures.

I found a reference that said there are 132 references to rejoicing in the Bible, but I found a few that were most relevant to us here.  So this is just a collection of scriptures that share about joy in the midst of trials:

“And not only this, but we glory in afflictions also, knowing that afflictions work out patience,” -Romans 5:3

“rejoicing in hope, patient in affliction, steadfastly continuing in prayer,” -Romans 12:12

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:12

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great in Heaven. For so their fathers did according to these things to the prophets.” -Luke 6:23

Then indeed they departed from the presence of the sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be shamed for His name.” -Acts 5:41

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” -2 Corinthians 6:10

who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and I fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church;” -Colossians 1:24

For you both sympathized with my bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” -Hebrews 10:34

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Paul vs Job Part 5: Suffering in the Bible

Going through difficult times sure doesn’t feel good.  Often we don’t have any idea why or how any good could come of it, but the Bible speaks about the lessons and benefits we can gain from suffering. I have found seven of them that helped bring my own struggles into focus.

1. Suffering produces intimacy with God.
Job 42:5 says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.” Job learned more about God through his suffering.  I believe that is one of the greatest benefits of struggle if we draw near to Him during the trial.  When we are going along in Happyland, we don’t have as much motivation to meditate on God’s Word or to pray or stop and listen to Him.  It’s during our times of suffering that we draw near to hear Him and that will lead us into a closer relationship and intimacy with God.

2. Experiencing God on a Deeper Level.
It just follows that greater intimacy with the Lord will lead to a deeper relationship with Him.  The closer we get to someone, the more we understand the person and the greater we feel we can rely upon them. The same is true with God.  The deeper we go, the more we will be able to trust Him even in our darkest hours.

3. Equips us to comfort others in need.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” I know how my own struggles have given me experiences that I have been able to share with others to help them through similar issues.  That’s the whole reason for this blog and my Facebook group.

4. Comfort comes easier from those who’ve struggled.
People who are suffering tend to feel more comforted by those who have been there.  I think that is why the Bible details so much of Job’s and Paul’s struggles.  We not only gain comfort from reading about these men, but as Paul writes, we can use our own struggles to comfort others because they will know that we truly understand.

5. Suffering gives us strength.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but if you think about it, both Job and Paul were stronger for the suffering they endured.  Paul’s courage is evident as I shared a few weeks ago.  It’s very much like our muscles that atrophy if not used and strengthen as we work out.  Our courage, is much like that.  It’s strengthened when we need to use it.   I had ankle surgery and wasn’t able to walk for months.  I’m now working to gain back the muscle I lost in my right foot which is now visibly thinner than my left.  My suffering has given me strength to move forward because I see many of the problems that come my way now more like small bumps in the road where as I had once seen them as mountains.

6. Suffering produces growth and maturity.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  I know it sounds like there should be an easier way to gain growth and maturity, but there really isn’t.  Remember when your mother called your aches growing pains?  And how companies that grow into large organizations have growth problems to deal with?  Well, it’s the same with us.  We cannot grow and mature without some growing pains…suffering.

7. Suffering conforms us to God’s image.
Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  If you think about it, Jesus did the ultimate suffering for the good of us all.  Our suffering, though to us humans, feels so bad, it can’t compare to what Jesus suffered.  And think about how the Father must suffer seeing His Son and so many of His children suffer. All parents hearts ache when their children struggle.  As we suffer trials, we become more like Jesus and closer to the Father.

Suffering is no fun. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d never choose it and would be the first to admit I’ve prayed for it to stop every single time rather than having to go through all the struggles I have.  But I am also the first to admit that, without those same struggles I’d have prayed away, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with a more intimate, deeper relationship with my God, the ability to comfort others for I have also struggled, and the strength, growth and maturity to be more conformed to God’s image.  What about you?

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Paul vs Job Part 4: Difference between long and short trials

At this point, I feel I need to share a bit from my experience about the differences between struggles that are relatively short-lived and trials that go on for quite some time.  This is one of the biggest reasons why those of us who struggle with long term issues, have a hard time hearing from well-meaning friends how, “this too shall pass.”   I wrote about this a while back and it bears repeating so I interrupt this series this week to bring you this very important article: Six Reasons Why Chronic Issues are So Different.

When I was about to have my first child, I went to a birthing class for The Bradley Method (different philosophy, but similar idea to La Maz).  The teacher said something I will always remember because it fits as a motto for so many things in life.  She said, “You can stand just about anything for a short time.”  She explained that when you couldn’t stand the pain a moment longer, that’s usually when the baby is born.  I found that to be true.

I remember thinking, about that quote as I lay in the hospital bed in agony dilated to 7.  The nurse said it would be HOURS yet.  I was only in labor for about nine hours at that point.  Most women are in labor far longer so that is what hospitals are used to.  Well, they never met Speedy Tabares!  So she walked out of the room saying to call her back when I felt the need to push.  Well, the minute she walked out, I felt I needed to push.  My husband went to go tell her and she sent him back in assuring me it would be HOURS yet and to tell me no, she’d be back in later on.  I was in so much pain, I remember thinking, I could possibly take another few minutes of this, a few hours?  NO!  So I told him to go back to her and tell her YES!  She came back in and sure enough, I was at 10.  My daughter was born just a few minutes later.

You can stand just about anything for a short time, but the longer it goes on, the more the stress of it zaps your energy, your hope, your strength, your courage, your resolve, and shakes your faith.

There was a psychologist I read about who was teaching a class on stress management. She asked her class to imagine holding up a glass of water.  Most of the students thought she was going to talk about the glass being half full or empty to illustrate optimism vs pessimism.  However, she asked them how much they thought the glass would weigh.  Many of the students gave answers, but she told them it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t how much the glass weighed that was at issue; it was how long one must stand there with their arm outstretched holding it up.  You see, you can stand there with your arm up holding nothing at all and, over time, your arm will grow tired.  Holding it up for a minute is no big deal.  While, holding it up for an hour would cause your arm to go numb and feel paralyzed.  She explained that it’s the same with stress.  While it may not kill you, it can destroy your quality of life.

Most chronic conditions will not kill you, but they can destroy your quality of life as the person you were is stretched and changed and limited beyond what you were and had ever envisioned for your life.

If you’re ever seen the movie Facing the Giants, you’ll remember that scene where the coach has the football player close his eyes and he coaches him a few inches at a time to eventually get him across the entire field with another man on his back.  When he opens his eyes, he is amazed at how far he had come because he was certain he couldn’t make it all the way before he started.  Life is like that.  We can stand just about anything for a short time and then we need encouragement and inspiration one step at a time to make it to the end…or just keep making it each day as some struggles don’t have an ending this side of heaven.  It’s how the old saying goes about how ones eats an elephant…one bite at a time.

There are actually six reasons why chronic issues are so different, devastating, and destructive.

1. What doesn’t kill you may, indeed, destroy your quality of life.

…and very few who have not experienced a chronic issue will truly understand this.

  • Over time these experiences will change who you are.  Not necessarily for the worse, but it may seem that way at first as you no longer will be able to do the things you once could.  If it’s financial, you will no longer be able to afford things like luxuries (or in extreme cases even basic necessities) that you once could. If it’s health related, you will no longer be able to afford the energy to do the things you once could or loved or desire.
  • Chronic issues force you to think ahead much more than you used to, to plan things ahead of time.  In the case of financial matters, you will be forced to not go to dinner all month in order to be able to afford to go to a birthday dinner with friends next month.  In health issues, you may need to plan to take it easy this week in order to have the energy to go out to lunch with friends next week.
  • It can be increasingly frustrating not to know when, or even IF, your current crisis will end.

2. Most people will not understand. 

  • They’ll make comments like, “You don’t look sick.”  or “I’m broke too, but I’m going to buy a nice gift for Mom. Why can’t you?”  They don’t understand…”chronic illness can’t be all that bad if you look ok on the outside.”  Their idea of broke may be different from yours if you can’t pay rent this month.
  • Friends and family will use the words tired and exhausted interchangeably to mean they stayed up a bit too late last night and think that’s how you feel when you share why you can’t make the trip to Vegas this year.  After all, they’re tired too.

I remember a time when we were so broke, we drove an hour to a grocery store because it was the only one in the area who took credit cards at the time and we had no money for milk and bread.  We mentioned our financial struggles to a friend of ours who said they understood how we felt as they were down to their “last $10,000 in their bank account.”  True story and, yes, they really thought they knew how we felt.

3. Feeling guilty for all the things you can’t do for others. 

  • For all the gifts you can’t afford to buy for your nieces and nephews…or maybe your own children
  • For not being able to spend time with others who are hurting because you just can’t physically make it out to see them.
  • For not being able to give money to deserving friends or family when they are in need.
  • For not taking your kids out to a movie or signing them up for an extra curricular event because you don’t have the money or the energy to get them there.
  • For not volunteering at church.
  • For not offering to make dinner for a friend in need because you can hardly sum up the money or energy to make your own.

4. You will feel the need to push yourself beyond what you can comfortably give to others. 

  • and this will cause you to over extend your energy levels or financial situation beyond what it can hold.
  • and this will cause you to have consequences like having to give up working the next few days to recover or give up some repair because you ran out of money before you ran out of month.

5. Getting angry or defensive when challenged.

  • and you will be challenged.  You may find yourself having to explain to the very same relative why you can’t come to the big shindig next year in Tahiti even though they were able to save up for it this year.
  • Explaining for the 20th time how you may have to cancel lunch for the third time because you just don’t feel up to it today even though you did feel up to cleaning the house yesterday.

6. You may find your faith eroding as you wonder why God hasn’t healed you. 

  • because He did heal So and So
  • You’ll wonder if God really cares for you if He is willing to leave you in this trial all this time.
  • You may wonder why me? What did I do to deserve this?
  • You may wonder if God is really there at all.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”  It’s so important in our struggles that I put it up on the top of this blog.  You see, we can get down in the valley after a while such that we have a hard time pulling ourselves out.  That’s when we need others to help us up.

John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Just knowing that someone understands what you’re going through and justifies your feelings about what you are dealing with can help pull you out of the valley.  And that’s why I’m here.

I am not a doctor or a financial wiz kid. God may not choose to heal you or put an end to your financial struggles, but I can help you pull yourself out of the valley so you can begin to see the joy and live a life beyond surviving!

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